Nakedness has been a topic of discussion between myself and several friends over the past few weeks. It turns out I have quite different views to (what seems like) most people. So I thought I’d open it up to be a bit of a debate. Me vs Steph. Let us know who’s corner of the changing room you’re in…

Lissy says…

I have a question. It’s been bugging me for a while. And then I started cycling to work and using the changing and showering facilities almost everyday in the basement of my building and now I really just don’t get it.

Why is being naked so awful?

Our changing room, like many others, is full of grown women of all shapes, sizes and ages, dashing from cubicle to cubicle, doing the ‘trying to put underwear on without dropping the towel’ dance and just generally avoiding eye contact like their life depended on it.

We have three showers that are in self-contained cubicles and four showers that are open plan. Every morning, there is a queue for the three closed off showers, whilst the four others stay unused. The same thing happened recently on my first visit to Cyclebeat. Eight showers – six open, two cubicles. And a queue which I was able to breeze straight past as long as I didn’t mind a couple of people seeing me shampooing. Fine by me.

I’m not suggesting we all need to wander round flaunting it in each other’s faces, but it makes me sad that we’re regressing to feeling like we are 14 again and changing after a PE lesson. Especially as these are all people who have just run or cycled into the office, or have just finished a workout in the gym or studio next door.

I asked my male colleagues what happens on their side of the wall. The shower set up is the same, and all of them get used. Apparently everyone is a lot more ‘matter of fact’ about it and they just get on with what they need to do. Need to put their towel down to get dressed? Done. Need to be at their desk in 20 minutes so don’t have time to faff around trying to cover up? So don’t bother.

For now, and until I have an answer, I’m just going to carry on being the only weird one that walks past the queue and uses the shower without a door.

Steph says…

I’d just completed a tough 45 minute work out, I was sweaty, tired and hungry and ready for a lovely shower. I walked into the ladies room, put my bag on a hook and looked around for the changing/ showering cubicles.

Then I heard the showers and realised that the other ladies by the six hooks were already stripping. Heat rose in me, bile started in the back of my throat and my head filled with stressful thoughts.

My dreams of a lovely shower were replaced by flashbacks of school, knowledge I would have to rush my shower and realisation that the complimentary towels barely covered by foof and boobs at once filled me with fear.

Don’t get me wrong I’m okay with getting changed in front of my friends, I’m not a complete prude. I just like my privacy, especially with strangers/acquaintances. A shrink would take me back to school where I had enough ammunition for the bullies that the possibility of my body looking different (it wasn’t) was enough to put me off PE and communal changing for life.

So far this has all been about me, but if there had only been me in the room I would have coped with open showers. Having to squeeze past others to get into/out of the showers, having to look at the floor whilst getting ready and having to put my contact lenses in/makeup on next to the lady that dries her hair naked in public made the whole the thing much worse.

I’ve never used the showers at a gym either, I always go home/to work and use a private shower. An added bonus is that I don’t have to lug all my stuff around.

Trying to rush, get my undies on under the towel and finding anywhere to put my things amongst the naked bodies in the under provisioned changing rooms resulted in me heading to work as a stressed, sweaty mess with wonky hair and clothes. I might as well have not showered at all.

Maybe it’s just me and my issues but when I am paying £16+ for a class I don’t want to have to go through a stressful experience every time. Places like Boomcycle have it right where there are beautiful big towels individual cubicles where you shower and get ready before facing the world. Because of these facilities I can enjoy my class and the rest of my day with no stress, well except for when I forget my bra, but that’s another story.

Ahhh, weekends. Aren’t they great?

Along with a night out with a few work colleagues on Saturday – which involved a bit too much beer and not quite enough dinner (and consequently an early hours trip to McDonald’s on Tottenham Court Road) – I also managed to fit in some interesting fitness-y things this weekend. Such as…

Burgess parkrun

Short shorts make me run faster

My tenth parkrun (if only I was a junior and got a tshirt at ten – boo!) was a new one for both me and seasoned parkrun tourist Steph. It’s known as a fast, flat course, so when I got a text from Steph on Friday saying ‘are we still PB-ing tomorrow?‘, I thought I would screw being completely underprepared and sent back the completely enthusiastic response of ‘umm… I think we’ll give it a go‘.

And we gave it a go and we pulled it off! Steph’s incredible pacing skills, a lot of one-sided chatting and some much needed stern words in the final kilometre and she got me round almost 2 minutes faster than my previous best parkrun time and well under the 27 minute mark (26:17 to be precise) which I’ve been wanting ever since the PB-that-wasn’t in Geneva in May.

An added bonus to parkrunning is the well deserved café stops afterwards, and we found an absolute gem just outside Burgess Park in the form of Fowlds. Coffee and breakfast of a ham and cheese croissant (me)  and avocado on toast (Steph) happily consumed, it was time to hop on a couple of buses over to…

The Om Yoga Show

I went and spent all day at the Yoga Show last year (you can read my post here), so I wasn’t too bothered about trawling all the stands with the same vigour, but I did pick up a new mat strap from Yogamatters – one of the best exhibitors in my opinion.

I did pay for a 90 minute mindfulness workshop, led by Louise Palmer from Camyoga. I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot from it, which I’ll cover in a separate post at some point.

But safe to say, after some short guided meditations, stepping back out into the chaos of the main hall was a bit of a struggle!

Weightlifting for Women Workshop

After a bit of a pep talk from Charlie and after dragging myself out of my hangover, I headed to Shoreditch on Sunday morning for a two hour free lifting workshop with Sally Moss from Strength Ambassadors.

We covered off how to deadlift (my favourite), how to build up to full pull ups (least favourite… SO HARD!) and squats, focussing on how to do them with correct technique and gradually building on the weight. The workshop was an introduction into the full four week Ladies Who Lift programme that Sally runs, although sadly I can’t make the next course that’s running in November.

I’m really pleased I did this as I will definitely be approaching the weights room in the gym with a renewed confidence that I know what I’m doing. Plus, I really enjoyed deadlifting and really want to get better at that!

Feeling at home in the squat rack! (Charlie’s photo)

How was your weekend?

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post like this (November, in fact), which just goes to show how little cross training and how much running I’ve done this year.

But as it’s a time where I’m not really in full on training plan mode, plus I’ve got a tight hip niggle that won’t go away, I’m enjoying much more than just running at the moment. Here’s what I’ve been up to…

Cycling

I bought a bike in April last year. I then rode it twice, folded it up under a desk for 8 months, moved house and then kept it in the garage for another 5 months. But last weekend I took the bold move and wheeled it – with pancake flat tyres – over to Evans Cycles at Fenchurch Street and asked for it to be made roadworthy again. Turns out, all that meant was pumping up the tyres and oiling the chain. Embarrassed at my incompetence, I rode off into the rain and off on an adventure.

Down by Regent’s Canal at Mile End Park

That weekend, I rode a few miles around Limehouse and Mile End, 6 miles up to North London, then all the way along the canal the next day from Angel to Wapping.

Since then, I’ve sorted out bike parking at work and rode to work most of last week. It’s ace! It’s less than 25 minutes from my front door to my desk and for where I am in East London, cycling is always the quickest way to get to where I need to go. I am LOVING cycling at the moment.

Limehouse Basin

Bootcamp Pilates

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to try out HIIP (high intensity interval Pilates) by Bootcamp Pilates at their City studio, which is nestled right behind Old Street station, only a 20 minute walk over from my office. It was a really humid evening and the mix of floor based cardio and strength exercises, interspersed with body conditioning sections on the reformer got me really quite sweaty in their basement studio.

I’ve really enjoyed the couple of reformer classes I’ve done in the past, but this class I found that little bit more engaging. We did exercises like squats, burpees, push ups and lunges, as well as some moves using dumbbells, on a mat placed to the side of the reformer. These were typically sets of two exercises done three times, before switching to work on the reformer, which was more stretching focussed, along with moves like planks and bridges.

I liked that we switched between on and off the reformer regularly, it meant I wasn’t hating being worked up into a sweat doing endless burpees, but also wasn’t getting too bored just lying on the reformer for an hour.

As you can see from the photos, I had the pink, shiny face of concentration on throughout the class! It was challenging but moves were adapted up or down based on ability. I know that this kind of workout would do wonders for my running, so I’ll definitely be back.

Classes are £19 off peak, £27 peak – so pricy! But Bootcamp Pilates do an intro offer of 2 for £12 on off peak classes (which only excludes weekday evening classes).

Lifting

My brilliantly fit and constantly active friend Charlie makes a great gym buddy. Over the last few weeks, we have managed to fit in four trips to my gym (Virgin Active Barbican) together. I really hate running before work, but I love going to the gym. She comes up with the workouts, shouts at me when my weights aren’t heavy enough and I just go along with it and feel great afterwards.

I only have the rest of July left on my membership, but then I am probably just going to pay as I go at other gyms and take advantage of the fact you can train for free on Fridays at Fitness First if you’re running Royal Parks (which I think is a fantastic link up!)

This week, it was an upper body session for me, and a legs session for Charlie. One day I will feel confident enough to step up to the squat rack alone…

After revisiting the story of how this blog started yesterday, on a whim I then decided to have a stab again at Janathon this year. My marathon training does need a bit of a new year kick, and this will be as good a method as any.

I won’t be posted on here though, I’ll be over on my Tumblr site with all things Janathon, which can be found here, or can be added via Bloglovin’ here.

Good luck to everyone else taking part!

Although it was noted that the bigger running brands were absent from The Running Show, I actually didn’t mind. Quite frankly, I spend more than enough time and money in Niketown as it is, so it was good to expand my fitness wardrobe horizons. Here’s my highlights…

Balega socks

I’ve never really been one to invest in specific running socks, surviving so far on not-very-technical pairs from H&M and Boots (absolutely no correlation to the amount I’ve had to spend on Compeed, of course). At the first Write This Run conference back in May, we got a pair of Balega Hidden Comfort socks which have been my one and only ‘good’ pair of socks ever since. We got another pair in the range at last weekend’s conference, and only then did it really click that Balega was a good sock brand and good socks were a good idea. I ran in the second pair we were given and dashed straight to the Fit Brands stand to stock up. At £10 a pair, I think that’s a lot for one pair of socks, but then again I have nothing to compare against. They were on 3 for 2 at the show, so twenty quid on protecting my poor, unloved feet is probably a good investment.

Moving Comfort

If it weren’t for Emma (who lead the yoga practice at the end of the Write This Run conference) mentioning she was head to toe in Moving Comfort and they had a stand at the show, I probably would’ve walked past without a second look. The ‘sister’ brand of Brooks Running, they’ve actually been around for ages in the US, but only have a fairly limited distribution here in the UK – I looked up their London stockists, of which there are six, and I have to admit to never stepping foot in a single one of them (maybe I should be checking out independent sports stores more often?!)

On first look, I think the brand is balancing finely at the line between good, well designed functional sportswear for women and that annoying most-add-flowers-and-a-pink-colourway-in-order-to-appeal-to-women thing, but overall I thought their dark purple and marl grey themed stand at the show was well balanced. It showcased some super soft fabrics and comfortable looking clothes suited to yoga or cool down, with more technical running pieces.

Here are a few of my favourites (I actually happen to quite like dark purple and mark grey):

Cozie Hoodie – £70 – image from Moving Comfort

Foxie Half Zip – £60 – image from Moving Comfort

Urban Gym Tight – £40 – image from Moving Comfort

I also did a quick currency conversion check, and they’ve priced their stuff at pretty much the same as it would cost if buying the US (e.g. a $110 item is £70 here – versus the current exchange rate of just over £67) – nice to know!

Camelbak

Not a new brand to me, but one I’ve never tried myself before. I’ve had lengthy discussions with many other runners recently, trying to come up with a solution to carrying all my crap (keys, phone, inhaler, gels, tissues, money, Oyster etc…) with me on long runs. Honestly, this topic has taken up a disproportionate amount of internet browsing time. Charlie suggested a hydration pack, Katy told me about the best offer ever and now I am the proud owner of this:

image from Camelbak

(The offer was a free Camelbak and the Runner’s World Complete Guide to Nutrition when you bought a £15 six month subscription to Runner’s World, which personally, I think is a bit of a deal.)

Even the boyfriend was impressed with this, and he is NEVER impressed with running stuff, so it must be good. The Camelbak website says this is actually a bike hydration pack, but I hope it was also be perfect for marathon training.

What new brands or interesting products have you discovered recently?